A Scottish Social Media ‘Disaster Story’ in the Making for Inverness Hotel! #UncleWillie

The Power of Facebook.

Facebook campaign goes viral – Over 17,000 people have responded to this Facebook campaign in only 5 hours! The campaign originated in Inverness, Scotland. An effective Social Media Strategy and Policy of use could have helped to mitigate some of the apparent damage.

A new Facebook community page called Boycott the Royal Highland Hotel was opened just after 8pm on Sunday 14th July 2013. Within five hours, the page had amassed more than 16,000 likes. The image below of Uncle Willie has since been shared over 16,500 times and the post has received over 17,000 likes. Some people have commented that using pictures of uncle Willie was not right to do, and others have commented that Facebook is not the right media to use to vent a grievance. There are also reports that the press and media have picked up on the story.

The purpose of the page is described as “Discrimination towards people with a disability”, and its page description is as follows:

 Today for lunch we went to ASH RESTAURANT INVERNESS beside the train station  during our holidays & as soon we went in the door the staff were giving us dirty  looks and tried to put us off by saying that it would be a 20 minute wait for food even  though the place was dead! We were obviously not there clientèle little did we know  it was because of my Down syndrome uncle!! We never got offered drinks and after  10 – 15 mins someone finally came over to take our order, we order for my Uncle  Willie (in the picture) fish fingers off the kids menu as that’s all he can eat is small  portions and every where we go he has always had it! But they then turned round  and said no he can not have that then for a supervisor to come over to say they CAN  NOT SERVE MY UNCLE TODAY. This is clear DISCRIMINATION and I want to make  every one knows what a horrible place that is. That staff were rude from the word  go! We made our opinion clear to the staff as we walked out. Noone should be told  what they can and can’t eat especially when it’s a treat for them. Please LIKE AND  SHARE so that everyone can hear what this “award winning restaurant” is really like!

Since the creation of the new community page, the timeline of the Royal Inverness Hotel’s Facebook page has been inundated with messages, a few of which commenting on posts prior to yesterday’s alleged complaint. One poster comments: ”

I have written to capability Scotland, Trading standards and am now informing as many M.P’s as I can. You should be ashamed of yourselves and should be heavily chastised for your actions.

The hotel responded to the comments which in turn created a backlash resulting in 18 shares, 19 likes and over 380 comments with several calls to close down the Facebook page whilst the company works on a response. As of 1 am the next morning, the Facebook page remained open.

Hotel's official response
Hotel’s official response

Our advice for any company using Social Media is that they should have a Social Media strategy in place, and they should have a policy in place which guides them in addressing how the organisation and its staff uses Social Media.

Failure to have a strategy in place can result in bad public relations. A good strategy and relevant policies can help limit any potential damage.

UPDATES:

Final update – 19.30, 17.07.2013 – There have been written reports on Facebook that STV news covered the story, and that there was discussion on local radio stations – and even a London station (LBC 97.3FM Duncan Barkes’ Blog). The hotel’s Google+ reviews have taken some backlash too. Following publication of the Daily Mail’s article, the article has reached other feeds worldwide and a few other bloggers have been discussing the story. Here are some of the links:

The Ash Restaurant, Inverness: A lesson in online reputation management?

Inverness restaurant hits back at disability discrimination claims

Discrimination – truth or perception?

UK Fan Forum (Wrestling)

As of 17.00 on 17.07.2013, The Inverness Courier has grown it’s ‘likes’ on Facebook by 123 to 5925 likes, the paper’s image of the article’s front page picture had been shared 37 times and attracted 217 likes with 63 comments. The Daily Mail article has been shared 2182 times with 549 comments.  The Facebook page supporting the hotel has since attracted 121 likes and just over 1000 comments over 14 posts.

As of 16.07.2013, The Daily Mail publishes an article about the campaign: Hotel staff refuse to sell fish fingers to man, 47, with Down’s Syndrome claiming the meal is only available to under-12s; and the Campaign page has been removed from Facebook.

As of 16.15 this afternoon, the campaign page has returned thanking supporters, asking for calm and for followers to keep an eye out on future developments. All parties are seeking an amicable resolution.

As of 15.30 this afternoon, the Campaign page has been removed or set to private: “Either the recipient’s account was disabled or its privacy settings don’t allow replies.”; and Down’s Syndrome Scotland charity posts a statement in response to be made aware about the campaign. The original complainant offers to meet the hotel manager in Aberdeen. A Facebook page in support of the Royal Highland Hotel has been set up with the following description: “This page has been set up to support this establishment that seems to be have been tried and convicted courtesy of social media.”

 As of 11.19 this morning, the Facebook Page of the Royal Highland Hotel goes back online with an apology:

“I offer my profuse apologies to Claire Cumming and Willie for the upset that was caused during their visit to our restaurant yesterday. I invite them to meet with me so that I can say sorry in person and seek to make amends. I do not have contact details for Ms Cumming and so I would ask her to telephone the hotel … and ask to speak to ….., Regional Manager of the Royal Highland Hotel. As Regional Manager of the Hotel I take any complaint seriously, and I will personally be carrying out a thorough investigation to establish the facts. I would like to reassure all of our guests that we pride ourselves in providing equal opportunities to our diners, and our staffs are all fully trained in this protocol. I truly regret the distress that Willie and his family have experienced.”

Also the Inverness Courier has updated its Facebook status: “See Inverness Courier tomorrow re Royal Highland Hotel’s reaction to boycott campaign sparked off by a woman and her Down’s Syndrome uncle”.  There are now over 24,000 likes on the campaign page.

As of 10.19 this morning, the Facebook page of the Royal Highland Hotel has been removed. Their TripAdvisor page is being referred to a lot. The Twitter page is still active, and they have grown by 8 followers. The campaign page has grown to almost 23,000 followers. The Inverness Courier Facebook page (5802 likes) has received many messages asking for the story to be covered.

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10 thoughts on “A Scottish Social Media ‘Disaster Story’ in the Making for Inverness Hotel! #UncleWillie

    1. Good point Grahame, it isn’t intentional. It’s more about creating an awareness of businesses considering a Social Media strategy/policies. Many don’t have these in place.

  1. Take a look at the hotel’s Twitter profile. A number of hospitality consultants, including social media consultants, followed the hotel on Twitter–before today’s incident. You can lead a horse to water…

  2. Maybe I am a little old fashioned, but I would prefer to make a complaint first to the manager of an establishment before making my grievance public.(if not satisfied with the initial investigation). There are always two sides to a story. Whilst individuals should be taken to task, I don’t think it is right to slander an entire operation on the basis of a couple of ignorant staff members.

  3. Quote: “Some people have commented that using pictures of uncle Willie was not right to do, and others have commented that Facebook is not the right media to use to vent a grievance.”

    So where is the ‘right’ place to vent a grievance these days?…some where not many will hear about it, in a nice quiet corner where no one will know??!!! eh?…Eh!?? EH!!!?

  4. Howdy! This post couldn’t be written any better!
    Reading through this post reminds me of my old room mate! He always kept talking about this.
    I will forward this article to him. Fairly certain he will have a good read.
    Many thanks for sharing!

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